Al Stewart | A Beach Full of Shells

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A Beach Full of Shells

by Al Stewart

Literate and intriguing folk rock on the hit-making ("Year of the Cat," "On the Border") Al Stewart's first US CD in a decade.
Genre: Rock: Folk Rock
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. The Immelman Turn
4:39 album only
2. Mr. Lear
3:00 album only
3. Royal Courtship
4:10 album only
4. Rain Barrel
4:00 album only
5. Somewhere in England 1915
6:56 album only
6. Katherine of Oregon
3:07 album only
7. Mona Lisa Talking
4:26 album only
8. Class of '58
4:10 album only
9. Out in the Snow
2:51 album only
10. My Egyptian Couch
2:18 album only
11. Gina in the Kings Road
3:49 album only
12. Beacon Street
2:20 album only
13. Anniversary
2:53 album only


Album Notes
For a singer and songwriter whose work is suffused with history and detail, Al Stewart follows no creative timetable. It's been 10 years since his last US CD of new material, almost 30 years since his "Year of the Cat" single and album became unforgettable international hits, almost 40 years since his first album was released. Al Stewart is not afraid of time and its passages.

"A Beach Full of Shells," Al's Appleseed debut and first new US release since 1995's "Between the Wars," finds Stewart in timeless form, presenting a baker's dozen new songs that span centuries and continents, autobiography and fiction. As he nears the 20-album mark, Stewart remains a distinctively literate and vivid storyteller, time-traveling and teleporting himself and his listeners from World War I battlefields to Sixties bedrooms, from ships to airplanes to ice floes, from the specific to the mysterious.

Musical settings that encompass electric folk-rock and acoustic ballads, colorful dabs of classical and Eastern music, and even a touch of Little Richard-style piano pounding, are as varied and imaginative as Al's subject matters. The CD's producer, Laurence Juber, formerly of Paul McCartney's Wings, has enhanced Al's elegant Scottish drawl, nimble acoustic guitar-work and keyboards with his own Grammy-winning guitar playing, string arrangements and percussion and a flexible rhythm section.

"The Immelman Turn" kicks off the CD in a style reminiscent of Fairport Convention, Al's early British contemporaries, with spirited violin and barbed electric guitar sweeping us into the tale of a doomed pilot's last flight. Then we fall down the genteel rabbit hole of "Mr. Lear," a tribute to the 19th Century nonsense poet, before landing in the veiled intrigue of "Royal Courtship" (certainly the only song in history to use the words "plenipotentiary" and "amanuensis"). Elsewhere and elsewhen, we are taken "Somewhere in England 1915"; into the freezing bleakness of "Out in the Snow"; to visit party girl "Gina in the Kings Road"; to the frenzied rock 'n' roll past of "Class of '58" and a peaceful, nostalgia-filled old age in "Katherine of Oregon." And that's just part of the tour on "A Beach Full of Shells."

In the spellbinding tradition of his signature songs "Year of the Cat," "Time Passages," "On the Border," and "Nostradamus," among many others, Al's latest musical short stories are both lyrically meaningful and insidiously catchy. Hear them on this long-awaited CD and on Al's US and Canadian tour dates this summer and fall.


Like the fine wines that are his hobby, Al Stewart's gifts as a singer and songwriter have matured and ripened over the course of his musical career, stretching from the early '60s to the present and beyond.

Stewart was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1945, and moved with his family to Bournemouth, a seaside town in the South of England, at an early age. It was in Bournemouth that Al bought his first guitar - from Andy Summers, future lead guitarist of The Police - and learned his first guitar licks - from Robert Fripp, later the leader of King Crimson.

Leaving school at 16, Al headed toward his future by playing guitar in various local bands. "In 1963 The Beatles were breaking out in England," Al explained in the liner notes to his "Greatest Hits" collection issued by Rhino Records last year. "I wanted to be Al Beatle. Along came the Rolling Stones and I wanted to be Keith Richards." But a strong dose of Bob Dylan's original songs shifted his focus from instrumentalist to lyricist and vocalist.

In 1965, Al moved to London and became the emcee at the famed Les Cousins folk club, rubbing shoulders with young talents like Paul Simon, Ralph McTell, Bert Jansch and Cat Stevens. He started writing and performing his own songs, first at Les Cousins, later at other folk clubs and colleges across England, frequently appearing with folk-oriented groups like the Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, and The Pentangle.

Al's first album, "Bedsitter Images," was released in England in 1967 (and years later in the US), followed by 1969's "Love Chronicles," which featured Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and a pseudonymous Richard Thompson on lead guitars and a 19-minute title song that recounted his romantic adventures and contained a then-shocking synonym for "fornicating."

After several more albums written in autobiographical mode, Al shifted his lyrical gaze outward, into history, literature and current events, an approach debuted on 1973's "Past, Present & Future" (released on the Janus label in 1974). The follow-up, "Modern Times," cracked the US Top 40 album charts in 1975 and drew Al and his backing band to the States for a full length tour.

With groundwork laid and touring dues paid, Al's next album exploded in America: "Year of the Cat," released in 1976, spawned two Top 20 hits (the title song and "On the Border"), and itself became a million-selling record. After Al relocated to California, where he still resides, his next album, 1978's "Time Passages," repeated the success of its predecessor, selling another million copies and spinning off the Top 10 title track and Top 30 single, "Song on the Radio."

Despite high quality songs and performances, subsequent Stewart albums in the '70s and '80s didn't receive as much popular attention, as punk rock and other new musical movements pushed their way into public consciousness. In the early '90s, Al returned to his folk roots with a solo tour of the UK, his first in 15 years, and "Famous Last Words," which utilized acoustic instrumentation and traditional folk and classical styles. Between the Wars (1995), focusing on the '20s and '30s, marked Al's first collaboration with former Wings guitarist Laurence Juber; their next effort, "Down in the Cellar" (2000), was a concept album, incorporating Al's knowledge of fine wines into his you-are-there songs of personal and historical vignettes; the CD was only released in Europe.

Now the long drought of new Stewart songs has been broken by "A Beach Full of Shells," Al's first CD for Appleseed, which finds him at the peak of his songwriting powers, still able to conjure other times and distant places with well-chosen words and evocative music. This is a "Beach" full of gems.



to write a review

Andrew Ceelen

A Gem of an CD
What a pleasure it was to find cdbaby and order Al Stewart's lattest release. It's good to hear that after all these years Al's voice is still as good as when he started of in les Cousins and Bunjies, back in Londen. Outstanding tracks? I think every one has different favorites but I like the immelman turn, Mona Lisa Talking, Gina, but other songs on this CD are just as good. If you like electric folk this is your choice.

Paul Connor

Al Stewart = Great Lyrics & Music
Like a fine wine, Al Stewart only improves with age. This may be his greatest album to date, which seems impossible since he already has produced so many classics. I hope it receives the attention it deserves.

It's taken 30 years, but Al somehow managed to work the words "immelman turn" and "aileron" into a song. No one else could achieve this seemingly impossible goal.

Thank you Al. I hope this CD brings you the great critical and commercial success which "A Beach Full of Shells" deserves.

Dr. Tom Blinn

Good new stuff as you'd expect from the artist
This CD has a number of new offerings that are very much in the vein of Year of the Cat, so if you like that music, you will like this CD as well. Exceeded my expectations.